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COBBOLD's REPLY TO MR. PEARSON'S REMARKS.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE
GENTLEMEN, I AM much obliged to my worthy and valued friend, Mr. Pearson, I for the opinion which he is pleased to express of my integrity, and for the anxiety which he manifests, lest I should suffer in the estimation of those to whom I am less known : but as I conceive that anxiety to have been indebted for its existence, rather to the amiable sensibility of friendship than to any just cause afforded by my letter, I will beg to be indulged in saying a few words by way of explanation.
I had never been able to divest my mind of a conviction, that Absolute Predestination was the kind of Predestination mentioned in the 17th Article; with the view of ascertaining the reasonableness of this conviction, I set about examining every member of the Article with the mutual bearings, dependencies, and connexions of them all; the result of which examination was (as I have stated in my letter) a confirmation of my conviction. Having proceeded. thus far, the next thing required was, to reconcile the liturgy with this interpretation of the Article; and, as I could think of no other way, I ventured “to hazard a conjecture," that the intention of the Article might be, “while it asserted the election of some, impliedly to leave the rest capable, by God's grace of working out their own salvation.” Such was the opinion I advanced; from which Mr. Pearson's differs only, in considering the doctrine of absolute predestination to be laid down by way of definition-but whether hy way of definition, or otherwise, in my judgment, inakes no difference : in admitting the doctrine to be laid down at all, he admits all that I contend for-all that the reasoning of my letter conducted me to, and more than is admitted by the venerable authors, Pretyman, Hey, and Kipling. The only point at issue between us seems to be, the mode, by which an Article exa pressing absolute predestination can be reconciled with our liturgy: of my " conjecture" at a solution of this difficulty, the public is in possession. Mr. Pearson proposes to effect the same reconciliation by considering the doctrine to be laid down only by way of definition : which of these opinions is the true one, or whether either of them, aliorum sit judicium : for myself, I am not so tenacious of an hypothesis, (for it should be remembered, that mine was nothing more than hypothesis,) but that I am ready, conscious of the impar congressus Achilli, to bow with deference to so superior authority. In the present instance, indeed, I am more than half inclined to think with my friend, from the same interpretation having previously occurred to my own mind; which interpretation I did not ultimately adopt, only because I could not conceive a mere definition of a doctrine to be an adequate object of the Article : I have since revolved the subject more maturely, and if Mr. P. will admit the object or intention of the Article to be bond fide this, and this only, viz: to guard against the abuse of the doctrine, and that the laying it down in definition, was designed
merely to be preparatory and subservient to this end, I shall feel still less reluctance to subscribe to his opinion.
In reply to my friend's remarks on subscription, I am not aware that I advanced any sentiment, which could lead him to suppose, that I considered the articles of our church as mere articles of peace, instead of articles of faith; but as his manner of introducing the subject evidently, though undesignedly, tends to excité a suspicion that this is the case, I beg leave publicly to declare my unequivocal agreement with him and Dr. Powell upon this point. It is true, I did positively avow my disbelief of the doctrine of predestination, whether sanctioned by the authority of the compilers of the articles, or not; and if Mr. P. had called upon me to reconcile such an avowal with my subscription, he would have found, that I should have taken my stand exactly on the same ground as that on which he himselt allows, that such an avowal might be conscientiously maintained. Nor is the concluding paragraph of iny letter, to which Mr. P. refers, as containing the grounds on which I rest my defence of subscription, at all at variance with this declaration. Certainly with a reference to Calvinists, it is an argumentum ad hominem, or, if you will, an act of " recrimination;" but with a reference to other members of the establisment, it is something more-it is an application of the general principle above-mentioned to a particular case: does the third article (interpreted, I mean, according to the sense of the compilers) assert Christ's actual descent into HELL? Do the members of the establishment in general subscribe it in that sense? If they do not, on what ground do they justify their subscription, but on the general ground above-mentioned ? Mr, P., therefore, will see that he mistook my meaning in this passage, which was (however particularly the latter might seem to be applied) to assert in general, that on whatever ground a departure from the original sense of any given article might be justified, on the same might a similar deviation in any other instance be vindicated. Mr. Pearson proceeds as follows: “ To subscribe any article in a sense in which we do not believe it to be true, or, what is the same thing, to suppose that the sense in which we believe it to be true, is not one of the senses in which subscription is allowed by authority, is nothing less than to prevaricate; and my friend cannot prevaricate, however, for want of a more full explication of his sentiments, he may have given occasion to those who have not the advantage of knowing him, to think or say so.” To the truth of every member of this sentence, I unfeignedly, and, I hope, not presumptuously, yield my assent; and while I am sensible of the odiousness of prevarication, I beg leave to thank Mr. P. for his zeal in clearing his friend of the undeserved imputation of it.
I have but one more observation to make. Mr. P. seems to dislike my illustration drawn from the doctrine of the Trinity, as if a comparison of that doctrine with a doctrine avowedly false, had à tendency to excite a suspicion of the author's disbelief of the former : but, with submission to my friend, no such consequences can reasonably be apprehended to result from the comparison; an analogy ought not to be expected to hold in all its parts, any more than do the similes
of Homer, or the parables of our Lord: in the point in which I compared the two doctrines, they seemed to agree: if any one extends the comparison beyond the intention of the propounder of it, he alone is answerable for the consequences which result.
R. Overton, in his “ True Church men ascertained,” page 273, M asserts, that “ good works are not the appointed condition of justification ;” and he repeatedly censures his opponents for affirming, that “ good works are a condition of salvation.” I am very well assured, that Mr. 0. has done this, not with a view of disparaging good works, or discouraging the performance of them; but in order to give a higher idea of the blessing of redemption; to humble the sinner, and exalt the Saviour; and to shew, that the benefit of salvation is entirely to be attributed to God, and not to man. He would not, hown ever, have taken this method of obtaining his object, laudable as it is in itself, if he had duly considered the very dangerous tendency of the doctrine, which he has thus promulged; and if he had seen, what, if he had attained to clear ideas on the subject, he might have seen, that such doctrine is altogether unnecessary to his purpose. Mr. (.'s mistake in this point seems to arise from his want of distinguishing properly between the offer of salvation and the salvation offered, and of consi, dering, that though, with respect to man, the first was free and unconditional, the latter was not so. It was entirely owing to the free mercy of God through Christ, and without any merit or condition on the part of man, that the means of salvation were provided, and are offered to us; but it necessarily happens, from the circumstances of our own nature, that actual salvation is dependent on our own behaviour. If due attention were paid to this distinction, the dispute between Calvinists and Arminians respecting the conditions of salvation, which is probably a dispute about words more than things, would soon come to an end.
In order to render the matter still clearer, I will put it in a light somewhat different, though I certainly cannot do so without a repetition of idcas. The meritorious cause of our justification, and consequent salvation, is not to be sought for in ourselves; it is neither our repentance, nor our faith, nor our works, but the obedience of Christ; for it was entirely owing to the merits of Christ's obedience, that the new, covenant, or the covenant of grace, was held out to us. It was impossible, from the nature of things, that man should have any merit, which could avail to this end. hun Supplem. to Vol. V. Churchm. Mag.
The merits of Christ, therefore, are to be considered as the condition on which the new covenant was granted. It was necessary, however, from the nature of a covenant, that it should itself require conditions of those, to whom it was granted; conditions of entering into it at first, so as to become parties in it; and conditions of continuing in it, so as to be final partakers of its benefitst. The conditions of entering into the new or Christian covenant, so as to become a party in it, are repentance and faith; and the conditions of continuing in it, so as to be a final partaker of its benefits, are faith and good works. By repentance is meant sorrow for sin past, from a sense of its nature, and a resulution of avoiding it for the future; in which therefore is included a promise of performing good works. By faith is meant a reliance on the obedience of Christ, as the meritorious cause of our salvation ; and this reliance arises from a sense of our own unworthiness, and a belief in the truth of God's promises. By good works is meant an endeavour to obey the will of God, by a performance of all his commandments, to the utmost of our power. The particular duty which is due to us from God for the blessing of redemption, i. e. for granting the covenant of salvation through the merits of Christ, and thus affording us the “ means of grace, and the hope of glory,” is gratitude; and this is so well expressed by our church, in the exhortation before the Communion, that I cannot do better than transcribe it. After having stated the duties of the Christian covenant itself, i. e. repentance, faith, and good works, the exhortation proceeds thus to state the particular duty of gratitude, which arises from the granting of the covenant:-“ Above all things, ye must give most humble and hearty thanks to God the Father, the Son, and the lloly Ghost, for the redemption of the world by the death and passion of our Saviour Christ, both God and man; who did humble himself, even to the death upon the cross, for us miserable sinners, who lay in darkness and the shadow of death, that he might make us the children of God, and exalt us to everlasting life.”
If any one should doubt, whether the Christian religion be properly considered as a coronant, he will probably find his doubts completely removed by a reference to the Sd and 4th chapters of St. Paul's Epistle
* All that I wish to be meant by this quotation is, that, in the divine counsels, an atonement was deemed necessary. Why it was decmed so, is a question, into which, if we enter at all, we ought to enter with the greatest caution and diffi- dence.
+ This matter may be illustrated, though not paralleled, by the case of an act of grace passed by an carthly sovereign. The grunting of an act of grace, and the reasons for which it is granted, are to be distinguished from the conditions, which the act contains, as it is applied to the benefit of individuals. The act may be granted from mere motives of compassion, or at the intercession of another power, or extorted by reasons of policy; but it is not necessary, in any of these cases, vor perhaps would it be proper, that it should be applied unconditionally; nor does the circumstance of its being conditional, so long as the conditions are reasonable, at all hinder it from being an act of grace. Nay, it is soinething more than possible, that the conditions may heighten the grace,
to the Galatians, and the sth and 9th chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
I have already acknowledged, that I do not consider Mr. O. as intending to weaken the obligation to moral conduct; but it always appears to me, that those who represent the attainment of salvation as unconditional on the part of man, do, in fact, make the preceptive parts of the Gospel in a manner nugátory. With respect to these, the Calyinist says to his disciples, or seems to say, “ Your Saviour has done so much for you, that nothing on your part is necessary. It is, indeed, an attestation of your gratitude to your Saviour for the benefits which you owe to him, that you obey his commands. It is, therefore, fit and decent, that you should observe the precepts of the Gospel; but nothing of this kind has any avail in the business of your salvation." The Arminian says, “ Notwithstanding all that Christ has done and suffered for you, it is indispensably necessary to your salvation, that, according to your power, you obey the precepts of the Gospel." Which mode of address is most likely to be effectual to the production of obedience, I leave every sensible person to determine. In the mean time, I wish him to recollect, that it is the very design of human life, by the practice of obedience, to cultivate those dispositions of mind, by which we are to be qualified, or rendered fit, for the participation and enjoyment of the heavenly state. Rempstone, Dec. 12, 1803.
NEW SUBJECTS FOR INVESTIGATION PROPOSED.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
GENTLEMEN, TT is certainly very proper that your correspondents should freely
I criticise each other, so long as they do it with candour and politeness. Observator was right in finding fault with the style of Jonathan Drapier, if he thought it censurable; but I am sincerely glad that his advice was not taken by your facetious correspondent, for I am of opinion that on whatever page the name of honest Jonathan is to be found, it will have a chance to be cut open sooner than those occupied by Observator, Obscurus, or any other of your correspondents.
Much more caution and delicacy, however, Gentlemen, are clearly necessary in animadverting upon any thing that comes from yourselves; yet I trust you will pardon my suggesting a hint or two, drawn from me by my warm partiality for your excellent work, respecting your address to correspondents at the bottom of page 271. In your wish for “ as much variety as possible," I am ready to join you; but it is in the expectation and the hope, that you do not mean a variety of heterogeneous matter. It must surely be allowed to be a rare and striking advantage to your publication, that it possesses the grace of uniformity as to its object, though it admits of an endless variety as to the execution. I cannot but regard your work as a beauteous bride, wedded to one great subject, hitherto chaste and pure, and uncon